My dentist says that I have leaky fillings. What does that mean?
Leaky fillings refers to fillings that have maybe aged and a gap has formed between the tooth and the filling, allowing decay to seep in. It can be difficult, especially for silver amalgam fillings, for a dentist to tell if there is decay under the filling. The dentist will usually check the margins of the fillings, and if there are openings between the filling and the tooth, or corrosion, or it feels a little sticky when an explorer is poked at that margin, will recommend replacing the filling. But sometimes there is no apparent gap, only suspicious coloring around the filling, and sometimes there is no clue at all.
Below on the left, for example, is a photograph of a tooth with an apparently functional amalgam filling. However, when the filling was removed, (see photograph on the right) considerable decay was discovered underneath it–evidence that the filling was leaking.
White fillings are bonded to the tooth, meaning that there is no gap between the filling and the tooth. If they are done right and that bond is strong, it can be difficult for decay to seep in around the edges. Also, with white fillings it is easier to tell if new decay is starting to form at the edge or underneath it because the filling is somewhat translucent and will become discolored when there is sub-surface decay.
—Dr. David Hall
Click here to return to the dental questions page.